NEW DELHI: The surprise appointment of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Army chief by superseding two army officers has disturbed the defacto line of succession. With Lt Gen Rawat having the longest tenure of three years, top Army officers are wondering how to zero in the next contender for the top post. All top 15 generals of the Indian Army are out from the race to for the next chief as they do not have age on their side.
Traditionally, the Army assigns the line of succession on the basis of age and tenure of an officer, who is then groomed for the top post.
Under present circumstances, none of the commanders of the Army’s six operational commands can become the next chief. Seven other key Lt Generals, who are Principal Staff Officers (PSO) assisting the chief in decision-making, are also not in the race.
After ruling out top 15 generals, the focus now is on the newly-appointed Lt Generals, who are Corps Commanders. The Army has 13 Corps headed by a Lieutenant Generals. “Only two-three from the 13 Corps Commanders are eligible to become the Chief of Army Staff. This is very unusual in the Indian Army,” said an officer. Only Lt Generals below the age of 57 can position themselve s as General Rawat’s successor.
Besides seniority by age, infantry supremacy over selection of top post in the Indian army also has a major role. Some in the Army believe Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, an Armoured officer, who was expected to be the next chief, was sidelined by the powerful Infantry lobby. The Gorkha Regiment has the maximum officers in Army Headquarters, including incumbent Army Chief General Dalbir Suhag and Lt Gen Rawat. Gurkha officers also occupy key posts of Director General of Military Operations (Lt Gen A K Bhatt), Director General of Military Intelligence (Lt Gen S K Patyal), Director General of Military Training (Lt Gen A L Chavan), Adjutant General (Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma), and Director General Staff Duties (Lt Gen Vijay Singh).